The Rekai Centres
Following on the success of its predecessor–The Central Hospital started by two doctors from Hungary, brothers John and Paul Rekai in the 1950’s – The first Rekai Centre was established as a not-for-profit, charitable corporation in 1988, and became Canada’s first multicultural, multi-lingual nursing home, with a mission “to provide the best care in any language”. Today, the Rekai Centres have expanded to include two homes: the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place and the Rekai Centre at Wellesley Central Place in downtown Toronto.
Funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the Centres provide care and service for 276 residents. The Rekai Centres follow in the footsteps of the Central Hospital model, providing care and service to the residents in their own language, while ensuring they remain active and a vibrant part of the downtown community in which they live.
The Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place
The original Rekai Centre has served the community for 25 years, and the Board and senior management are working to move the Sherbourne Place centre to a new site in the downtown core to build a new long-term care home reflecting today’s design standards, including more private rooms and with more common spaces for residents to relax and spend time with family and friends. Over 30 per cent of the current residents are of Chinese background and the management also receives requests from the gay community to work with them in order to meet long-term care needs. To this Mary Hoare, CEO of The Rekai Centres, said, “Once the site is finished, we will work alongside members of the community to ensure we reflect the diversity found in downtown Toronto.”
The Rekai Centre at Wellesley Central Place
The Rekai Centre opened its second location – The Wellesley Central Place – in 2005. The Rekai Centre at Wellesley Central Place is one of the newest long-term care centres in downtown Toronto. Wellesley Central Place reflects Toronto’s diversity as well as meeting the needs of an emerging group — those under 65 years of age. While the average resident age is around 82 years of age, the centre sees an increase in the younger population entering the home.
“For example, 12 per cent of the residents in Wellesley Central Place are under age of 65 years. In a way, this fact flips the understanding of what the ‘long term’ care is, where people thought that long-term care was just for seniors. We believe that the admission of this group of individuals reflects the advancements in technology and the care provided by hospitals allowing individuals to survive traumatic accidents or serious illness.
“During development of our Wellesley Central Place, as corporate citizens we felt the need and importance to provide green solutions to ensure our home was indeed environmentally friendly. For example, as one of the solutions, we created a ‘green roof’ that assists in reducing our heating and cooling bills while providing more greenery to the residents who live in the surrounding condos. We are often showcased at ‘green conferences’. We have taken an extra step, and this roof is now a home to five beehives, which assist in restoring the ecological balance in the urban setting.”
Besides providing a green solution, the beehives also serve another purpose entirely — the centre is hoping to harvest the honey from these beehives, and engage the residents in selling this honey at the local farmers market, integrating the residents back into the community.
The Social Care Model
Increasing the comfort level and growing the list of its services are not the only changes at The Rekai Centres. The management works to realize a significant culture change within the organization — turning away from a medical care model and towards a social care model. To this Hoare said, “We want to allow the residents and their families to work with our staff to maintain residents’ independence and for residents to be involved in maintaining their own care. We find that the medical models are too institutionalized and regimented and don’t provide choices to the residents. The goal is for the residents to be able to continue in the daily routines they were used to before entering a long-term care home, not creating a conflict between the rules of the centre and the habits of the resident. To deliver the best possible outcome of this culture shift, we have been working with a U.S.-based company to incorporate this resident-based model in our centres as this approach is more common in the U.S. than it is in Canada.”
Over the years The Rekai Centres developed extensive recreational and social programs to keep their residents active. The residents regularly leave the home for community events, designed to meet their interests and needs such as fishing trips, sporting events, shopping tours to the U.S., and much more. However, besides getting residents out and into the community, the Centres also work to bring the community into the Centres. “We have created a cluster of 150 volunteers who assist our residents to take them shopping, accompany them on outings or just provide one-on-one visits. We also believe in life-long learning, and just because someone lives in a long-term care home it doesn’t mean one can’t continue to learn,” Hoare says.
Besides social programs, The Rekai Centres work with hospitals and academic institutions to meet the broader needs of the community. The Rekai Centres created a partnership with the St. Michael’s Hospital to assist the hospital’s patients requiring peritoneal dialysis. The Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place offers peritoneal dialysis so that persons requiring this service can live in a long-term care home rather than a hospital and receive the care and support they need.
With the growing aging population, the colleges and universities are seeing an increase in the number of students enrolling in nursing, personal support worker programs, etc. The Rekai Centres offer practical work experience to students at Ryerson University, York University, and George Brown College. This practicum not only allows the students to fulfill this aspect of their program but also provides The Rekai Centres with an opportunity to identify prospective employees.
Building a Caregiver Support Network
The Centre is working to build a network for caregivers, providing education and support to people in the community who assist the elderly, but who may lack the necessary advice and guidance. “In many cases the caregiver is the spouse or a family member who is supported by other outside agencies, and these family members often get forgotten as caregivers, but they also require mental and professional health support, so we work to create a network where these individuals can get together as a group, meet others in the similar situation and receive peer support as well as a social outlet.”
The Rekai Centres continue to work and develop a multitude of programs which focus on improvement of the life for residents, their families and the community as a whole. Hoare offers a simple summary to the Centres’ goal, “We want to become an urban hub for our community to ensure that the residents and the community are brought together, and that we provide services to both our residents and our community. We truly embrace the resident-centered care, giving the residents, the staff, and the families the best experience, creating an atmosphere where the residents are the focus of the care.”